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Infect Immun. 2008 Apr;76(4):1340-8. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00778-07. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG prevents enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli O157:H7-induced changes in epithelial barrier function.

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  • 1Hospital for Sick Children, Room 8409, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1X8.


Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) O157:H7 intimately attaches to intestinal epithelial monolayers and produces attaching and effacing (A/E) lesions. In addition, EHEC infection causes disruptions of intercellular tight junctions, leading to clinical sequelae that include acute diarrhea, hemorrhagic colitis, and the hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Current therapy remains supportive since antibiotic therapy increases the risk of systemic complications. This study focused on the potential therapeutic effect of an alternative form of therapy, probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG, to attenuate EHEC-induced changes in paracellular permeability in polarized MDCK-I and T84 epithelial cell monolayers. Changes in epithelial cell morphology, electrical resistance, dextran permeability, and distribution and expression of claudin-1 and ZO-1 were assessed using phase-contrast, immunofluorescence, and transmission electron microscopy and macromolecular flux. This study demonstrated that pretreatment of polarized MDCK-I and T84 cells with the probiotic L. rhamnosus GG reduced morphological changes and diminished the number of A/E lesions induced in response to EHEC O157:H7 infection. With probiotic pretreatment there was corresponding attenuation of the EHEC-induced drop in electrical resistance and the increase in barrier permeability assays. In addition, L. rhamnosus GG protected epithelial monolayers against EHEC-induced redistribution of the claudin-1 and ZO-1 tight junction proteins. In contrast to the effects seen with the live probiotic, heat-inactivated L. rhamnosus GG had no effect on EHEC binding and A/E lesion formation or on disruption of the barrier function. Collectively, these findings provide in vitro evidence that treatment with the probiotic L. rhamnosus strain GG could prove to be an effective management treatment for preventing injury of the epithelial cell barrier induced by A/E bacterial enteropathogens.

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